AFRICA: In eastern Africa, prospects for main season crops improved with average to above-average rainfall in most parts. In Eritrea, however, rains have been persistently poor. A grave humanitarian crisis prevails in western Sudan due to civil conflict which has displaced over 1 million people. In northern and western Africa, the desert locust threat remains extremely serious; control operations are hampered by lack of resources. In southern Africa, Zimbabwe could face acute food shortages as early estimates of 2004 food production indicate a potential food deficit of up to 1 million tonnes of cereals which may require a combination of commercial imports and food aid. This forecast cannot, however, be confirmed at this stage as the FAO/WFP crop and food supply assessment mission could not be completed.
ASIA/NEAR EAST: China’s 2004 wheat crop has experienced good growing conditions, but output continues to decline due to area reduction. India’s wheat output is revised down, but still shows a sharp increase over last year. DPR Korea and Mongolia continue to need food aid. Sri Lanka has been seriously affected by drought and thousands of families are in need of food assistance. In Afghanistan, early snow melt and high temperatures during spring may adversely affect cereal crops. In Iraq, the reduced numbers of international humanitarian workers is affecting delivery of food and other types of assistance.
LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN: Torrential rain and severe flooding in Haiti and Dominican Republic have caused loss of life and damage to property and assets. In Haiti, following improved security, delivery of food assistance is returning to normal, particularly in the Northern department that was recently affected by drought. Food assistance continues to be provided in several Central American countries to families affected by the coffee price crisis. In Argentina and Brazil, the maize crop has been affected by drought. In Ecuador and Peru, dry weather caused a marked reduction in production of winter paddy and first season maize crops.
EUROPE: Weather conditions for the 2004 cereal crops remain generally favourable throughout Europe. A sharp rebound in cereal production is expected in 2004 across the entire region, reflecting generally improved weather conditions after widespread drought last year. In the European CIS, April frost has damaged significant winter cereal areas. Cereal harvests, though significantly up on last year, are still below the good harvests in 2001 and 2002.
NORTH AMERICA: Wheat production in the United States is set to fall sharply from last year because of reduced plantings and unfavourable weather in some parts. By contrast, generally favourable planting conditions have prevailed so far for the coarse grain planting season. Output of coarse grains, especially maize, is forecast to increase. In Canada, seeding progress of the major 2004 cereal crops has been good so far this year and precipitation in early May provided welcome moisture in some persistently dry areas of Alberta. The overall area sown to cereals is expected to decrease in 2004 because of a shift of land into non-cereal crops.
OCEANIA: Australia’s 2004 wheat output is forecast at about 22 million tonnes, 3 million tonnes down from last year’s record. The planting season started well with good early rains but the return of dry conditions in April, especially in south-eastern parts, has dampened earlier hopes for bumper crops.